Thursday, February 23, 2012

You could sit around and complain about your small town or.......

This post comes from Rebel Herron, husband, father, farmer and Rock Port Alderman. If there is one thing you can count on in Atchison County it is that the Herron's bleed blue. Rebel not only loves Rock Port, but he works everyday to make it a better place. Thanks to Rebel and all of our local elected officials for serving and preserving our wonderful way of life for the next generation......AS

I was raised in Rock Port, Missouri. I had a normal child hood, raised by a hard working mother and father who were passionate about their community, sports, and their children. Growing up, I did not always appreciate all the things I had and the sacrifices that my parents made to ensure their children had all the opportunities that they did not. I feel this is a common sentiment that people share as they get older. At a very young age my parents instilled in me that one must take great pride in their community and do their part to ensure it stays a great place to live.

Once again, I wasn’t always paying attention. My friends and I were pretty sure that we wanted to move away, stay single, and never have children. Fiction can be fun. 

After graduating from Rock Port RII High School I went off to the University of Missouri - Columbia, where I received a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. My intentions were to go on to veterinary school. It was after Mizzou when I decided I wanted to come back to Rock Port and farm with my father. I still do not know what drove me to do it, but I am glad that I did. I am not so sure my parents, at the time, shared in my joyous revelation. I had come to the realization that Rock Port is where I wanted to live, work, and settle down. Living in a place where almost everybody knows your name, watches your back, looks out for your children, cares about and takes pride in their community, and where the streets are safe to walk at night, are all things that meant the world to me.

A great thing about a small community is usually the people that choose to live here do so by their choice. It is not an area they had to move to because of a job opportunity, such is the case in larger cities. There are very limited jobs available in towns such as Rock Port, so the people who live here are doing so because they are passionate about it and find a way to make it work. This is what I wanted for myself, and why I pursued it.

Flash forward several years and I am happily married, (is that an oxymoron?), with two amazing children. I feel truly blessed that I am able to provide my children with a community such as this one to grow up in. They will not have to worry about gangs, random shootings, teachers who don’t care, an unsupportive community, or any other big city realities. As my children get older they will at times feel bored, want bigger and better things to do, and so on…but I am sure in the long run they will appreciate all the positives only a small community can provide.

As I settled down in Rock Port, I found myself wanting, but not knowing how, to help the community with what I have to offer.  I would sit around complaining or criticizing how things were being done around here, yet I was not doing anything more about it than the next person. It is an all too familiar problem with our society. Most people feel it is appropriate to give their two cents on every topic under the sun, but never take the time or effort to do anything about it. Most people love to complain and say how things should be done, and for a long time I was no different. It was at that time I started talking to my friends about wanting to be on the city council. I felt it was a way to have a say in the direction the town was taking. Being a part of the local government was a sure fire way that I could be proactive and have input in the decisions that were being made that would affect a whole community for generations to come. It was just talk for a while, and I think my friends and family got tired of hearing me talk about it without any subsequent action being taken.

As luck would have it an opportunity arose for me to join the Rock Port Board of Alderman. I was very excited about finally having my opportunity to help this great community. As the days and years go by as an Alderman, I have a greater respect for people who put themselves out there as a walking target. One thing I have learned is that as an Alderman you rarely get praise for the good things that are happening to the town. There are good minded and observant people that do notice and comment regularly on the positive changes that are happening around them, but they are in the minority. Most people, such as I used to be, only come to us with things that are wrong, need improvement, or just common gripes. I do not think badly of these citizens…as it is just the way things are and it is expected and appreciated. Most fixes that have happened while I have been on the Board are due to citizens voicing their concerns.  People are not afraid to stop me on the street, track me down, call my phone, etc…to tell me their concerns or comments. I love this. The fact that people feel I am so approachable and will do something with their comments is very rewarding for me. All too often a citizen in the past would have a concern, notify their Alderman, only to have it dismissed when they are out of ear shot. I have made it a point to address every comment I get. Surely some of them are not realistic or even possible, but I do research and try to resolve every concern that I can.  It has been a very rewarding experience for me.  I, along with a growing number of citizens, have noticed this community and its employees making positive leaps and bounds. This community is in a much better place in many different regards than it was even a few years ago. It is more productive, financially sound, and an overall warmer place. I don’t take all the credit by any stretch of the imagination, but I can at least trick myself into believing I had something to do with it. I do ask that all citizens remember that their Alderman are not the President of the United States, and that there are certainly limitations to what we can do. Some requests I have received would be better suited for him, but I am sure that we work much harder at trying to please the common citizen than the federal government does.  With that said, never hesitate to voice a concern to your Alderman. We are here to serve the community and all in it.

Overall, the betterment of the community, interaction with people, and being a part of something much bigger than myself is why I continue to do this. However, I will not sugar coat it. Even though there are times when I wonder why am I doing this or is it really worth it, and the answer has always been yes. It can be highly stressful and thankless, but then again it is usually highly rewarding and fulfilling. It is a publicly elected office and I know that one day the community may decide I am not right for the job any more. I will hate to see that day come but I know it is part of the job. I will always be able to look back at the positive changes that I know I helped instill and be proud of those accomplishments. In my opinion, if a voting citizen likes the direction their community is headed, then the current Board is probably the best action to take. If they do not like the direction their community is headed, then a change is necessary. I hope to be a part of many more positive changes to this wonderful community, a community that I chose to settle down in, raise a family in, and work in.  I wouldn’t change a thing. I hope every citizen of every small community finds a way to better themselves and their surroundings. Take the time to get to know your local government and express any concerns you have about the direction your community is headed.  You may be surprised at the results that can come from a problem that the Alderman never knew existed. I am very blessed to have gotten a chance to help lead Rock Port.  It is truly a remarkable feeling and one I will never forget or regret.

Rock Port’s well know motto that greets you on its welcome sign is “A proud past and a bold future”…and I, for one, am all in

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